Saturday, 3 April 2010

Top 5 Time Travellers

B2E5BE13-8D5C-4CC0-8B48-54AE5221169B.jpgToday (Saturday) sees the return of Doctor Who, complete with new Tardis, new assistant and a new Doctor, played by Matt Smith. Time travelling as a concept, was arguably popularised by H.G. Wells Time Machine. Certainly the common notion of having a vehicle/device to transport you through time can be linked back to this story. In celebration of this most paradoxical of plot-devices I've devised the following list:

Top 5 Time Travellers

5. Bill & Ted
Every time I think about the plot of this movie, I wonder if I got it right. Bill & Ted get taken on a trip through time so they can pass their history class, otherwise Ted will be shipped to military school, and the Wyld Stallyns will never make the music that forms the utopian society of the future with its very simple philosophy:

Be Excellent to each other. And Party on Dudes!

It's strange that I was first introduced to Genghis Khan, Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln through this movie (and possibly also the short-lived animated series) but there you go. In fact, growing up most of my knowledge of non-British history comes from films/shows like Forest Gump, Animaniacs, etc. It makes me wonder how many kids nowadays were first introduced to Shakespeare and Dickens through their appearance in Doctor Who? Or whose primary knowledge of the past is through the excellent Horrible Histories series? Anyway back to matters at hand:

0E965B5A-3357-4E0B-AD18-5A34D568B34F.jpg4. Donnie Darko
Perhaps a less obvious time-traveller than all the others. However, his conversations with the bunny rabbit, following of worm holes, and so on have definitely earned him a place. Without spoiling anything, its surprising that his decision at the end of the movie hasn't been considered more often by time travellers. It and It's a Wonderful Life would make a brilliantly murky double bill.

3. Hiro (Heroes)
Say what you want about Heroes, in its prime you couldn't help but smile as Hiro got to grips with controlling time and space. His determination to follow a hero's arc, based on superheroes he has read about, feels like a very noughties concept. I often felt sorry for his character as he went on all these ridiculous journeys in later seasons, why couldn't his adventures be as cool as his role-models like Superman or Spiderman?

2. The Terminator
Come with me if you want to live.
There's a lot of great things about the first two Terminator movies. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that Arnie has only ever been believable in his role as an almost indestructible being. He truly was born to play a robot.

Beyond that, I think the idea of a mother being told her son is destined for greatness is a very powerful one. And Sarah's arc in doing her utmost to protect and develop her son has a surprising amount of depth in it.

Finally the time travel in the movie exists essentially without rules. It's never really established how the technology came about, or whether its creators know whether it's even possible to change the past. It's probably the only movie about time travel where the concept is of little importance to the characters involved.

69116E14-3AA6-47BC-BE6F-277BB70CC455.jpg1. Marty McFly
Marty McFly almost sums up the 80s for me, or at least teen movie stars in the 80s. He's wise-cracking, slick, and confident; he's the guy all the geeks in 80s movies wanted to be. As a child my favourite scene was always the climax of him playing "Johnny Be Good" to get his parents together. Although the brilliantly played scene when he ends up being seduced in his mother's bedroom has probably overtaken it since then.

It's influence on me is such that the rules established in this movie about setting things right for the future, and not seeing your future self are the rules for time travelling. And I always have a deep suspicion for any story where claims to the contrary are made. Example of the types of conversations that go on in my head: "He's meeting his former self - why isn't the universe imploding?! I've never seen something so ridiculous in all my life! Don't they know ANYTHING about time travelling?"

Over to you now: What are you favourite time travellers? Is there any movie/television show whose time travel rules you consider absolutely definitive?


  1. Haven't got round to watching it but Primer is said to be brilliant and completely mindbending, with very different time travel rules. Also, Lost.

  2. Primer's really good, although possibly the most confusing movie I've ever seen. It kinda takes the point of view that time travel will be discovered by the most geeky/obsessive amongst us, and reminds me a lot of Aronofsky's Pi in a lot of senses.

    Agreed on Lost, the episode "The Variable" also deserves a place in classic time travel tales. Daniel Faraday's unlucky not to make the list.